After more than 114,000 people signed a White House petition, the administration is moving to make phone and tablet unlocking a legal right.

Carriers operate on different frequencies, but often phones that can work on multiple networks, or in other countries, are locked to the network provider. The obvious reason for this is to prevent customers from switching networks and to force them to pay absurdly high international roaming fees.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission on the matter, says that networks already have enough ways to limit customer choice.

The Verge has more:

The proposed rules would also allow new customers to get an unlock from a carrier, writing that “A lawful recipient of a wireless device should be able to benefit from the proposed unlocking requirement.” A carrier could directly unlock a phone itself or “providing authorization” to another carrier to execute the unlock. It’s important to note that the NTIA is suggesting that unlocking become a requirement, placing the onus for making it happen squarely on the carriers: “The proposed rule would shift the burden associated with device unlocking onto the carriers that imposed the locks, and ensure they consistently do so in a way that is both expeditious and transparent.”

Customers currently looking to unlock their phones typically either have to pay a premium or resort to a shady third-party vendor.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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